Torchwood 1.13: End of Days review

Review

End of Days

Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):

Wordbuilding  World-map
Gore               Weevil-chompWeevil-chompWeevil-chomp
Dancing          CarysCarysCarys
Angst              Tear-stained-pizzaTear-stained-pizzaTear-stained-pizzaTear-stained-pizza
Aliens              Philoctetes

On Worldbuilding.

Owen: If it wasn’t for me, you two would still be in the 1940s. So are we going to sit around crying into our lattes, or are we are going to do something about it?

With this episode, the rift is open, with global consequences. Will the team be tempted to fully open the rift by a sinister stranger?

This episode was first transmitted as a double bill on New Years Day with the episode Captain Jack Harkness preceding it. This episode definitely benefited from being viewed with that episode, as some of the good will towards Torchwood generated by that excellent episode was brought forward into the viewing experience of this one.

Any temptation to stop and think and coolly analyse the rickety plot-mechanics of End of Days was declined by myself because of:
a) the good will just mentioned
b) more great character scenes building on the previous viewing experience coming wham-bam thick and fast distracting me from more ponderous concerns
c) the episode being watched in the festive holiday period with a couple of beers and the optimism of the brand new year.

The pace and feel of this episode is similar to Cyberwoman – when you stop and think about it all it is fairly ridiculous – but the sheer enjoyment of it barrels you through and over these doubts.

So, following on from the last episode, the rift is open, and across the globe there are strange phenomena. With the contrasting appearances of Roman soldiers and spaceships near the beginning, I immediately thought of my favourite Doctor Who graphic novel The Tides of Time. (A classic. Check it out.)

Ianto does a bit of foreshadowing, reading from the bible, as according to the news reports various religious groups around the world are demonstrating about these being the End of Days. (Although you would have thought that they would have been taking it all in their stride what with the whole world recently experiencing blood-control zombies – The Christmas Invasion – and rather a lot of Cybermen e.g. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. I will return to this point later.)

Jack snarks back to Ianto having a Russell T-sanctioned pop at religion and commenting on “the randomness of existence”. (Is this also a meta-comment on the sometimes random coherence of the plot of this episode? Probably not intentionally.)

Talking of faith, my faith in the television programme Torchwood takes another hit with the next sequence. Apparently institutions across the world are all pointing the finger at Torchwood as the expected source of the global chaos. Although it has been established they are beyond governments, the United Nations and so on, and are apparently a shadowy secret organisation, here they are being questioned by the whole world. I understand that this is done to up the dramatic stakes and to underscore the theme of responsibility, but the drama is undermined when the idea of what Torchwood is and how it functions is so vague and confusing. Not great Worldbuilding. (Later at the hospital the doctors have been expecting Torchwood to clear up any problems. Just how secret are Torchwood?)

However, during the actual viewing of the episode, this worry over what-Torchwood-is was quickly forgotten as I was absorbed by the compelling set-pieces that followed. The creepy Bilis Manger is back from the previous episode and tempts each of the crew (apart from Jack) to open the rift fully with visions of people they have lost (or will lose in the case of Gwen.) After referencing The Shining in the last episode (“the caretaker”, the ballroom) these visions are reminiscent of the images of the spooky twins from that film. After the guilt-wracked scenes in Combat, there is another showcase for the acting talents of Eve Myles as she finds she cannot avoid the fate that has been presented to her. Her tears and dark laughter here are electric.

This episode is full of great scenes which propel the story along on a wave of enjoyment, especially the mutiny. The climactic scenes, when viewed as part of a rip-roaring 100 minute story (with the previous episode) are great fun.

However, a show like Torchwood, like Doctor Who, has to world-build and suspend disbelief while working within the necessary constraints and absurdities (such as the multiple world-invasions mentioned earlier). A flaw of this episode, a muddy and confused picture of how Torchwood functions in the world of the show is not a necessary absurdity at all, and this is a Worldbuilding flaw that has been seen in various episodes before this one. Luckily, the sheer verve of the story means you don’t worry about that aspect of the show too much when you are watching it.

Episode Quality-rating: GrinGrinGrin

So, in summary then, an enjoyable romp which is best viewed in one sitting with its superior previous episode.

Oh, and the very last scene is intriguing…

(Note, as the Torchwood radio plays and Season 3 have BBC-confirmed airdates now – the radio plays begin this week – this review appears after the day-before-yesterday’s weekly Saturday review, and after yesterday’s review.)

As that completes the Torchwood Season 1 reviews – and the Torchwood Season 2 reviews are already complete – planetzogblog is ready to feature reviews of this week’s radio plays and next week’s Torchwood Season 3!

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